US-Mexican War 1846 -1848

Part 1

Ginny Martin
USA 1998 | 60 Min. | Betacam
Q&A with:
Paul Espinosa

While most Mex­i­cans are aware of the war, most Amer­i­cans know little, if noth­ing, about it. The out­come changed the des­tiny of both coun­tries. After 16 months of fierce fight­ing, from Texas to Cal­i­for­nia and all the way south to Mexico City, the war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidal­go. As a result, Mexico lost nearly half of its ter­ri­to­ry and the United States gained more than 50.000 square miles of land – the present states of New Mexico, Ari­zona, Nevada, Utah, Cal­i­for­nia, and parts of Okla­homa, Col­orado and Wyoming. The series exam­ines the his­tor­i­cal, social and cul­tur­al forces that shaped this piv­otal period during which two neigh­bor­ing coun­tries strug­gled for land, nation­al iden­ti­ty and power. 

» (…) From the begin­ning, we made a com­mit­ment to trying to pro­vide a bal­anced, mul­ti­ple per­spec­tive on the war. This meant involv­ing both Mex­i­can and Amer­i­can schol­ars on the war, as well as Chicano/a schol­ars famil­iar with bor­der­lands his­to­ry. We would come to appre­ci­ate how much the prism of nation­al iden­ti­ty can shape one’s view of his­tor­i­cal events. Many Amer­i­cans I would meet in the course of pro­duc­tion had lit­er­al­ly no knowl­edge of the war, while, per­haps not sur­pris­ing­ly, equal num­bers of Mex­i­cans, edu­cat­ed or not, would imme­di­ate­ly talk about ‘the Yankee inva­sion, when the grin­gos stole our ter­ri­to­ry.’ (…) As we waded fur­ther and fur­ther into the sub­ject, we strug­gled with the imbal­ance of exist­ing his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­als. On the Amer­i­can side, we dis­cov­ered a wealth of mate­ri­als, from hun­dreds of pub­lished mem­oirs by sol­diers who fought in the war to count­less unpub­lished doc­u­ments and visual images. On the Mex­i­can side, it was a dif­fer­ent story. There were just a hand­ful of mem­oirs from the period, most of which had not been writ­ten by the war’s com­bat­ants. We con­stant­ly heard rumors that more mate­ri­als exist­ed in pri­vate or gov­ern­men­tal war archives but if that infor­ma­tion exists, it will have to wait for later doc­u­men­tar­i­ans to present it. Yet anoth­er chal­lenge lay in pre­sent­ing this story on tele­vi­sion – a visual medium. Unlike the Civil War, which had begun just twelve years later and for which hun­dreds of thou­sand of pho­tographs exist, the U.S. -Mex­i­can war was prac­ti­cal­ly pre-pho­tog­ra­phy.« (Paul Espinosa)